The Why of Microchipping Your Pet

With technology advancing faster than ever, it’s no surprise that microchips are found in computers and cell phones. Microchips are even inserted into some wild animals to track their movements and learn more about the species. Microchips are used in a variety of ways and have reimagined our limits of technology. But the concept of putting that into your pet? It may seem strange for some. 

The microchip process is more simple and less scary than you may think. It involves a fast injection process, registration with a microchip agency, and will be scanned in case your pet gets lost so they can make their way back to you. The microchip database system is easily accessible for almost every animal shelter and humane society, and provides the safest way for pet identification. Microchips do not have any sort of GPS tracker; they serve only to store an identification number unique to your pet. 

How do Microchips Work?

A microchip is a permanent identifier in the event that a collar or tags are lost. It is standard procedure when a pet comes to a shelter or vet clinic to scan for a microchip. Microchip implants are also called radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. They are only the size of a large grain of rice and are passive. This means that the microchip in your pet does not actively transmit any information, only passively holding the information about your furry friend. It does not have a battery or power source, so it sits inertly in the dog or cat until it is read by a microchip scanner.

Before the microchip is inserted, it is scanned inside the sterile package to make sure it shows the correct identification code. In both dogs and cats the microchip is placed into the loose skin between the shoulder blades. This is a very quick process that takes the same amount of time as any other injection, like a vaccine. After insertion, the pet is scanned to make sure that the chip is reading properly.

Getting a microchip inserted is barely painful, and feels about the same as getting blood drawn. So microchip injections usually happen without any incident, even the smallest puppy or kitten. The needle is large, but it is sharp so that most animals do not even flinch when the chip is inserted. Some clients choose to have the microchip implanted during a spay or neuter surgery so their furry friend can be under anesthesia. But this is not necessary, the microchip can be quickly implanted at any time that is convenient. 

The components of the microchip are encased in a biocompatible material, meaning that they are non-toxic and do not cause any sort of allergic reaction as long as the chip is implanted using a sterile injector needle and proper technique. Some microchips do contain a material that encourages connective tissue to form around the chip and hold it in place, but this is not harmful.

Even the most responsible owners cannot ensure that their pet will not get lost. Most indoor cats are happy to stay indoors, but there is always the possibility that they could escape if someone opens a door at the right time, they push through an open window or screen, or an emergency situation calls for the home to be evacuated. Indoor cats are not familiar with the outdoor surroundings of their home and may not be able to figure out how to get back home. Some dogs will come running back to their homes, but many enjoy a good game of chase that ends somewhere unfamiliar. Even the most well-trained dogs could get distracted and become injured or lost. 

While collars are a great visible form of identification for cats and dogs, they can accidentally fall off or be intentionally removed. We actually recommend breakaway collars so that it does not get caught on anything and cause an injury. As tags get older and more worn out, the information on the tag may become unreadable. Tattoos also are not the most helpful; while they are permanent, they can still fade over time. Moreover, there are no common databases for tattoo information. It can be difficult to trace information about the pet and their owner if it is not coming from a microchip. 

Microchips cannot be misread, and the identification number is tamper-proof. 

How Can I Register My Pet’s Microchip?

Once your pet has their microchip, you must register the number with the appropriate agency. You’ll also enter your name and contact information. Your veterinarian will give you the documents, contact information, and tell you if any registration fees are needed. Hold onto this information — a simple google search won’t get you far. 

Microchip companies manufacture microchips, whereas a “pet recovery service” distributes microchips and provides a registry where you can enroll your pet. Keep in mind that “free microchip registries” are scams and will prove completely ineffective if your pet goes missing. The same goes if you fail to register the number at all it will not be in the system to find your furry friend. Learn more about microchip registries here, and contact your local veterinarian for more clarification. 

If you cannot remember where your pet was registered, obtain the 9, 10, or 15 digit microchip number to get a list of registries at the AAHA Microchip Registry Lookup. This is not a place to update your microchip information, it is simply a search tool to find the registry where your pet’s microchip is listed. 

Although the implanted microchip will continue to function over your pet’s lifetime without any need for maintenance, the system will not work unless you keep your contact information current. If you move or change your phone number, make sure you update the information with the registration agency.

In summary, don’t let your pets leave home without a microchip. Each year, millions of cats and dogs are lost. Having your pet microchipped significantly increases the chance that they will be reunited with you if they should go missing.